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EPA Announces Regional Beach Initiative at Warwick's Goddard Park; Kick Off Includes $214,000 Beach Monitoring Grant for Ocean State

Release Date: 07/31/2002
Contact Information: Andrew Spejewski, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1014

WARWICK, RI - Flanked by state and local officials at Goddard Memorial State Park, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a Clean New England Beaches Initiative that includes $1 million in federal funds for improved beach monitoring, an increased focus on pollution assessment work, and designating nearly a dozen "Flagship" beaches across the region that will serve as models for improving beach water quality.

The initiative comes on the heels of 274 New England saltwater and freshwater beaches being closed at least one day last summer due to pollution. The closings totaled more than 750 beach-days, including more than 100 days on Cape Cod and 92 days at Rhode Island saltwater beaches.

"While our waters are dramatically cleaner than they were 20 years ago, we still have too many beaches in New England that are closed too many days in the summer due to pollution," said Linda Murphy, director of EPA New England's Office of Ecosystem Protection. "This situation is unacceptable, especially at high-use urban beaches such as Goddard State Park which was closed nearly one of every three days last summer. Today's Clean New England Beaches Initiative will help improve these beaches, making them safer, cleaner and more enjoyable for millions of New England swimmers."

In announcing the campaign, Murphy awarded a $214,000 EPA grant to the R.I. Department of Health to help improve its beach monitoring and assessment program. The grant is among more than $1 million awarded this summer to New England's five coastal states for their beach monitoring programs. The funding was made possible by the Federal Beach Act approved by Congress in 2000.

"Our beaches are one of Rhode Island's great natural resources and today's grant will help ensure they are safe, healthy and beautiful," said Patricia A. Nolan, director of the R.I. Department of Health. "Through the Beach Monitoring Program, we identified problem beaches at risk for contamination because of geography, human activity, wildlife or other sources. We test those problem beaches three times a week and we report the results as soon as they are available, usually within 24 hours. These new funds will support our ongoing efforts with EPA, DEM, the municipalities and community organizations to reduce contamination risks at problem beaches. In the meantime, people can use the testing information – available on our web site, on our beach hotline and in the media – to make good health decisions about recreational use of the beaches."

"Most Rhode Islanders can think of no better way to spend a summer day than to go swimming at one of our sandy beaches," added DEM Director Jan Reitsma, whose department operates Goddard State Park and numerous other state beaches. "Just as we've been dedicating our efforts over the years to upgrading the public facilities at our state beaches, it has also become increasingly important that we work to ensure that the waters are clean for swimmers. EPA's new Flagship Beach initiative provides funding to enhance the state's beach water quality monitoring program and assist in our efforts to inform the public about the water quality at our beaches."

Murphy also announced the selection of Goddard State Park as one of three Flagship beaches in Rhode Island, the other two being Warren Town Beach in Warren and the Kings Park Swimming Area in Newport.

"Goddard Park is the perfect place to focus our attention because it is the closest saltwater beach to Providence and it experiences frequent closures," Murphy said, noting that the beach had seven closures last summer totaling 28 closure days.

Warren Town Beach was closed three times last summer for nine days while King Park in Newport Harbor was closed five times last summer for 13 total days.

Under state law, swimming beaches must be closed, or advisories posted, when levels of indicator bacteria – which indicate the presence of fecal contamination – are too high. Polluted runoff and untreated sewage released into the water can contain bacteria, viruses and protozoans, some of which can cause minor illnesses such as gastroenteritis or more serious diseases such as hepatitis. Runoff can be contaminated from pet waste, wildlife, illicit connections and various other sources. Sources of sewage include leaking sewer pipes, failing septic systems, boats, and combined sewer overflows.

EPA's Clean New England Beaches Initiative includes the following five elements, all aimed at reducing pollution at coastal beaches:

    • provide federal beach grants to boost water quality monitoring, pollution assessments and public notification about water quality
    • provide technical assistance - and, where appropriate, enforcement support – to local and state agencies to identify and reduce pollution sources, focusing primarily on non-point pollution sources
    • identify high-use "Flagship" beaches in each of the region's coastal states for targeted attention through enhanced beach monitoring, assessments and pollution management
    • promote high-quality monitoring, assessment technologies and information sharing through a newly-created state/federal Beach Work Group on Closures and Monitoring
    • boost public involvement and education about water quality issues at coastal beaches
For more information about EPA New England's regional beach initiative, visit the agency's web site at